Communications strategy + design for print, web and community projects

Flotation Device: Best releases of 2015

Flotation Device: Best releases of 2015

Happy holidays, creative music fans! Here’s my Flotation Device, KBCS best-of list for 2015. This year I’ve organized the list…

America’s Diamond Future

One piece of the puzzle for lowering worldwide carbon emissions is to end our energy reliance on the dirtiest of fossil fuels: coal. That’s an ongoing concern for us at Climate Solutions; but not so much for the energy companies that extract, ship, burn and export the stuff. So for April Fools’ Day this year, I created a fictitious corporate campaign making a novel economic argument for leaving the stuff in the ground. Here are the results:




Review: Syrinx Effect, “Snail Songs”

syrinx[written for Earshot Jazz]

Among the many young ensembles creating action-packed music within Seattle’s productive jazz and creative music scene, the Syrinx Effect is a standout. Playing (usually) without a rhythm section, the soprano sax-trombone duo draws propulsive energy from the air like a wind turbine. The group’s second release, out this month, channels that energy into a tuneful and confident set of composed pieces, making Snail Songs a nicely contrasting pair with last year’s gnarly and sweet, a set of unvarnished free improvisations.

In fact, the Syrinx Effect seems to be all about the nicely contrasting pairs–Kate Olson’s skybound reeds with Naomi Siegel’s gently loping trombone; the group’s double commitment to both improvised and composed music, and the two halves of their acoustic palette, which augments the two’s live playing with samples and looped duplicates of themselves. In the new recording, all of these pairings make for a fluid dance, in which sax and trombone slither in and out of the musical foreground, set against an electronic continuo of echoes and loops. (The effect is often as if Pauline Oliveros had been the third member of Jimmy Giuffre’s late 50’s trio with Bob Brookmeyer.)

Moods on Snail Songs range from bouncy to becalmed, and generally more sweet than gnarly. Olson’s lovely “Respired by” has Siegel stretching out in a breathy, bluesy solo, then slowly building up a buzzing, didgeridoo-like drone, before both players come together for the tune’s main theme. In Siegel’s graceful closer “Lonesome and the Moonbuggy,” a gently swinging duet gradually dissolves into a sundrenched pool of prismatic harmonies.

Both Siegel and Olson are members of several other ticketworthy performing groups (including Wayne Horvitz’s Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble), so there is no shortage of opportunities to catch performances of these rising lights of the Seattle jazz scene. But a Syrinx Effect gig is worth seeking out on its own–not to mention Snail Songs.

Hello, Climate Solutions!

I’ve accepted the position of Digital Communications Manager with Climate Solutions–a kickass climate and energy policy nonprofit based with offices in Seattle, Olympia and Portland. The organization has a great reputation for practical activism in the Northwest, with a theory of change that relies on (1) strong, progressive public policy on carbon emissions and investment in clean energy, (2) practical, real-world examples of long-term sustainable business practices and energy production, and (3) growing a diverse, committed grassroots movement pushing for climate action, and making deep connections between environmental issues and social justice.

I’ll be working with a great team, managing Climate Solutions’ website and social media channels. Watch for us online!

Flotation Device top 15 recordings from 2013

Every December, KBCS invites producers to prepare a list of the year’s best recordings, so each year my Flotation Device co-host John Seman and I prepare our own top 15 lists. This year’s list draws from the sound worlds we provisionally describe as creative and improvised music, experimental soundscapes, etc. Pacific NW artists are represented by a number of great releases this year. These are in no particular order:

Lori Goldston: Film Scores (Sub Rosa)

William Parker: Wood Flute Songs (Aum Fidelity)

Bill Orcutt: A History of Every One (Palilalia)

Syrinx Effect: Gnarly and Sweet (self-released)

Powerdove: Do You Burn? (Circle into Square)

Neil Welch: 12 Tiny Explosions (Table and Chairs)

Figeater: Sweet Figeater Surprise (self-released)

Steve Peters: Lingua Franca (Present Sounds)

John Luther Adams: Inuksuit (Cantaloupe)

Samantha Boshnack/B’Shnorkestra: Go To Orange (Present Sounds)

William Winant: Five American Percussion Pieces (Poon Village)

Angelica Sanchez, Wadada Leo Smith: Twine Forest (Clean Feed)

Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog: Your Turn (Northern Spy)

Chuck Johnson: Crows in the Basilica (Three Lobed)

Okkyung Lee: Ghil (Ideologic Organ)

A New Community Space in Hillman City

A progressive congregation (Valley and Mountain Fellowship) and a grassroots arts organization (Community Arts Create) are collaborating to launch a new space in Seattle’s Hillman City neighborhood. The prominent storefront is in a beautiful historical building anchoring the central intersection of Seattle’s Hillman City neighborhood. The space, dubbed the “Hillman City ColLaboratory,” includes a multipurpose meeting room, a kitchen, offices, and work-share space for artists and activists.

The building itself is owned by an evangelical Christian who insisted on maintaining highly prominent religious signage in the second-floor windows of the building, creating a significant messaging problem for the more inclusive,community-oriented mission of the new downstairs space. V&M pastor John Helmiere asked me to design sidewalk-level signage to announce the building’s new tenants, to present a friendlier and more welcoming aspect to passers-by, and to encourage neighborly curiosity about the new space.

Designing for E-PUB

coverMedical textbooks are notorious for being large and expensive, and many if not most require annual updates. Many professors use their own, self-published course text in lieu of a primary textbook,giving them complete control over the book’s contents, and potentially saving students money. This fall, the University of Washington School of Medicine decided to make a trial run at converting a course textbook into an e-book format, so students would have the option of reading and annotating their course materials using their iPads, Android devices or other e-readers.

The medical school hired me to manage the conversion of a sample text, create style guidelines, and train departmental staff to do most of the manuscript preparation themselves for future e-book conversions.

Talking to CEOs about Technology

SmartCEOThis article for Smart CEO Magazine was part of a recent freelance assignment, for which I was asked to examine how businesses are responding to the increasing trend of employees using their own personal computers, tablets and phones for work. This has been identified as a trend called BYOD–bring your own device–and there are positives and negatives both for employers and employees. I summarized the most important concerns for a managerial audience.

We Love Co-ops!

we-heart-coops-v3We do love co-ops, that’s a fact! Food co-ops, living co-ops, co-operative financial institutions and businesses, we love them all. As it happens, that’s also the theme of May’s Seattle Greendrinks–a monthly informal networking gathing for the local environmental community. It’s taking place at Second Use, an amazing wonderland of salvaged building materials, fixtures, architectural metialwork and odds and ends. Get event details here.

Universal Declaration was tapped to help with graphic design and outreach for this month’s Greendrinks. More importantly, I will be DJing live at the event. Stop by, have a green drink,* and say hello!

* drinks not actually green in color

Wisconsin Rising

wrisingThe fantastic independent filmmaker Sam Mayfield asked me to create a logotype and basic, extendable website for her forthcoming feature documentary, Wisconsin Rising. The film documents the popular uprising against Governor Scott Walker’s anti-worker agenda. In Sam’s words, what happened in Wisconsin “is a microcosm of what is at stake in America today, at a time of fiscal crisis and ideologically-driven budgets and social reforms… Walker’s agenda is not unique. While we watch even harsher bills passed in other US states, the people of Wisconsin set an example for the rest of the country on how to act collectively and re-engage in the democratic process.”